How to break free from 9–5 and live your dreams

Quit the 9-5

Are you currently working a job you hate? Stuck in the 9–5 that isn’t giving you the excitement and fulfillment you crave? Do you wish you were doing something else? Something that offered more freedom?

You’ve come to the right place.

Just over two years ago I too worked a 9–5 job. I worked for a respected Australian company in their head office on a decent wage, with little work stress and lovely colleagues. But I was desperately unhappy.

I realized, after bouncing around office jobs in New York, London, Hong Kong, and Melbourne, that this job was as good as it would ever get. Sure, I could get a promotion, increase my salary, and get a corner office, but ultimately this was it: selling my soul for money.

I couldn’t do it anymore. I quit my 9–5 job, along with my then-fiance (now husband). We sold all of our possessions, packed our bags, started a consulting business, and went to Southeast Asia to live our digital nomad dreams.

We spent time in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, The Phillippines, and New Zealand while getting results for our clients and feeling more inspired than ever before. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

My favorite spot on the Gold Coast.

These days I live on Australia’s Gold Coast. I write freelance for a living, have control over my schedule, and can’t imagine ever working 9–5 again. The following are my learnings.

Here’s how to break free from the 9–5:

1. Have a plan you believe in
Quitting an unfulfilling job is one of the best things you can do to change your life. However, if you don’t have an alternate plan — one which you truly believe in––freedom could soon turn to boredom, frustration, and fear.
Don’t leave your job without a reasonable 6-month plan detailing how you’ll make a living, what skills you will focus on, who you will connect with, and how you intend to spend your time. Having solid plans and goals in place will make you feel more comfortable leaving — it’ll also better set you up for success.

2. Monetize the skills you already have
While I strongly believe it’s possible to start again at any age, a quicker way to get out of the 9–5 is to focus on your current experience. Rather than trying to build new skills, which can take time and push your dream of getting out of the daily grind even further away, ask yourself the question: how can I make a living from my current skills in a way that’s flexible for me?
It’s important to note though, that your skills extend far beyond your career experience (though it’s relevant). Buy a notepad and get honest with yourself about what you are and aren’t good at. If need be, ask for feedback from others about what you’re good at. Shortlist your key skills for the next step.

3. Focus on what brings you joy
While you’re building a plan and getting real about your skills, don’t forget to consider what brings you joy too. It doesn’t have to be off-the-charts excitement, but it’s important to enjoy what you do––that’s the whole point of breaking free from your workplace anyway.
Ask yourself these types of questions: What will make you happy each day? What do you like (or at least don’t mind) doing? What’s your perfect life and how can you get as close as possible to that life now?
It may take some time to progress to your ultimate goals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start taking steps now to a more free and flexible lifestyle.

4. Solve a problem for others
It’s no secret, that to make money, you usually need to solve problems for others. Whether you provide a service, product, or experience you are ultimately providing something for the benefit of others.
To add value then, and get paid well for what you do, it’s important to understand what problems you could solve.
Could you develop a product to save people time? Or could your service help others gain leads? If you’re solving a true problem, chances are you’ll be able to make money from what you do.

5. Have buffer money
One should never romanticize going into debt to live their dreams. It’s nice to think that we could all quit our jobs tomorrow and lie on beaches all day. The reality is, that it’s not possible for most. Personally, I saved for 6 months before resigning to ensure I had enough money to cover worst-case scenarios (ever heard of COVID?). Having backup money doesn’t mean you’re anticipating failure, it means being smart and organized.

6. Be brave
Most people have dreamt of leaving their 9–5 job and living their passion. You, however, will be one of few who will actually go ahead and do it. It requires a kind of immense bravery to unfollow the status quo and head out on your own. Regardless of how organized, inspired, and equipped you are for the change, you’ll probably never feel ready. Remind yourself: never having tried is worse than failing.

Whether it’s your dream to start an artisan coffee shop in Sri Lanka, freelance web design as you travel the world, or simply gain back control over your working hours and schedule, then those steps may just be for you.

I once felt trapped in the 9–5 living for the weekends, hoping someday I could have autonomy over my life. Now I have freedom over my days and I’ve never looked back.

I believe that if I can do it: you can too.

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